Governors (and First Ladies) of Assiniboia 1812 – 1869

Proprietary Govt

The several layers of ‘governors’ in the Hudson’s Bay Company [HBC]:

• 1) The HBC Governor and Executive Committee in London.

The HBC charter of 1670 (granted by Charles II), allowed for a governor, deputy governor, and executive committee — a.k.a. the London Committee — of seven directors (the number rising over time through supplemental charters), to be elected annually from among Company shareholders, who were collectively known as the Company of Adventurers.

prince rupert of the rhine 1670

Peter Lely, painting, Prince Rupert (1670). Source: Wikipedia,_Count_Palatine.jpg

Prince Rupert of the Rhine was the first governor, with Sir John Robinson as deputy. The first executive committee consisted of Robinson along with Sir Peter Colleton, Sir Robert Vyner, James Hayes, John Kirke (whose daughter married Pierre-Esprit Radisson), Francis Millington, and John Portman.

The Governor and Committee decided matters on behalf of shareholders and were ultimately responsible to them through the Company’s annual general courts, at which issues concerning stock were settled, and decisions made by the Governor and Committee were ratified.

The Governor and Committee reviewed and finalized all decisions pertaining to North American trade and governance in Rupert’s Land that were made by governors and commissioners appointed to overseas duty.

watkin and northcote

Edward William Watkin and Sir Stafford Northcote

In 1863 the Hudson’s Bay Company was bought by railway entrepreneur, Edward William Watkin, and associates known as the International Financial Society. A new Governor was appointed — Sir Edmund Walker Head. When Head died in 1868, he was succeeded by Sir Stafford Northcote, who “endeavored to make the shareholders accept £300,000 for surrender of the Company’s chartered rights.” In conducting “One of the greatest transfers of territory and sovereignty in history” as “a mere transaction in real estate,” Watkin and Northcote were among those who set the stage for the Red River Resistance of 1869 – 1870.

[Quotation sources: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, description, Item 507 (Report of proceedings at a meeting of the Hudson’s Bay Company held at the Company’s house in Fenchurch Street, on Wednesday, March 24th, 1869: The Right Honourable Sir Stafford Henry Northcote, Bart., M.P., in the chair. London: Joseph Causton & Sons, printers, 1869); and A.S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870-71, Being a History of Rupert’s Land (The Hudson’s Bay Company Territory) and of the North-West Territory (Including the Pacific Slope) (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1939), 888.]

The London office of the HBC continued to hold executive decision-making power over Company affairs to 1931.

[See Archives of Manitoba, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Hudson’s Bay Company. Governor and Committee]

• 2) The governors over departments in North America.

Originally, HBC officers appointed to oversee trade posts (known as factories) built at bayside ports on Hudson Bay and James Bay were referred to as the governors of the posts. Each would have an administrative council.

In 1810, the HBC divided its posts into two departments — Northern and Southern — each with a governor in charge.

robert semple

Robert Semple

In 1815, the London Committee created the position of Governor-in-chief of Rupert’s Land, with his own council, to which the Northern and Southern governors reported. The first governor-in-chief was Robert Semple. After he was killed in 1816, William Williams was appointed to the office (1818). Williams made the inland post of Cumberland House his seat of governance. There he married Sarah ‘Sally’ Fidler (daughter of Peter Fidler and Mary Mackagonne, a Cree woman) after the custom of the country (without benefit of clergy).

The position of Governor-in-chief was dissolved with the 1821 merger with the North West Company [NWC]. The system reverted to that of having two governors: one for a Northern Department (the region westward from Rainy Lake and Fort Albany to the Pacific coast); and one for a Southern Department (east of Rainy Lake). Williams was retained as Governor of the Southern Department and George Simpson was appointed to the Northern Department.

george simpson

George Simpson

As governor of the Northern Department, Simpson operated out of York Factory. At the post Betsy Sinclair (presumably Métis, of unclear parentage), with whom he had a daughter, was understood to be his country wife, though Simpson had her ‘married off’ to a subordinate. He had other relationships and children to as late as 1829: with Jane Klyne (Métis, one child), and Margaret Taylor (Métis, two sons). Though either, or both, of these women may have thought herself to be his country wife, Simpson apparently did not.

Simpson became governor of both Northern and Southern HBC departments in 1826 and changed his base of operations — as ‘Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in North America’ — to Montreal.

f.r. simpson

Frances Ramsay Simpson

From 1830 – 1833, however, Simpson resided at Red River Settlement with his new wife (and younger cousin), Frances Ramsay Simpson. She was first lady at Lower Fort Garry (which Simpson had constructed). At the time of Frances Simpson’s residence at the lower fort, Adelgonde Humbert Droz Mackenzie (of Switzerland — formerly a children’s governess), was first lady (to 1833) at Fort Garry [I], up the river, as the wife of the Governor of Assiniboia, Donald Mackenzie. From 1833 – 1834, the position of Governor of Assinibioa’s wife was held by Ann Thomas Christie (a Métis woman), who resided with her husband, Alexander Christie, alongside the Simpsons in a house at Lower Fort Garry. Reportedly, in her capacity as highest ranking chatelaine at Lower Fort Garry, Frances Simpson did not care to entertain (perhaps partly from disinclination to mix with women of the settlement who knew of, or were related to, her husband’s former country wives and their children, but probably principally because she was ill and lost a child of her own).

In 1834 Simpson relocated his headquarters and residence to Lachine, Lower Canada (while Frances lived in England). As of 1839 the North and South departments were officially unified and Simpson again operated out of Montreal — under the revived designation, ‘Governor-in-chief.’ At this time he re-adjusted the boundaries of districts under his supervision and grouped them into 3 departments: Northern, Western, and Montreal. Although Simpson’s personal residence remained in Canada East, the headquarters of his HBC office (and his council) moved among the posts of the various departments.

In 1850, in order to be free of responsibility for civil matters at Red River, Simpson created yet another layer of governorship — appointing his second in command, Eden Colvile/ Colville, as ‘Governor of Rupert’s Land,’ the office superseding the authority of that of the Governor of Assiniboia (at least temporarily).

In 1860, Alexander Grant Dallas replaced Simpson (who had died) as HBC Governor-in-chief of North America. Dallas selected Red River as the headquarters for the Governor-in-chief and his council. Dallas’ formal commission of 1862 styled him “President of Council and Governor in Chief in our Territory of Rupert’s Land.”


William Mactavish

In 1864 William Mactavish was appointed to the office, which he held to his death in 1870.

[See Archives of Manitoba, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives Hudson’s Bay Company. Governor and Council of Rupert’s Land]

• 3) The Governor of Assiniboia. [See list below]

• 4) The Chief Factors who governed trade and HBC officers and servants in particular districts.

5) And finally, the HBC officers and servants in charge at any given fort who might be styled ‘gov.’ by residents and visitors.


List of Governors of Assiniboia.

1812 – 1815

Miles Macdonell. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

1815 – 1816

Colin Robertson. Interim Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

Wife: [although probably at a later date] Theresa Chalifoux, a Métis woman. [They were married according to church rite in 1828, but had been married according to the custom of the country about a decade earlier (their eldest son was born 1820).]


Robert Semple. Governor of Assiniboia. Governor-in-chief of Rupert’s Land.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

1816 – 1822

Alexander MacDonell. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

Residence: Fort Douglas to 1821; then Fort Garry [I] (the renamed, 2nd NWC Fort Gibralter)

1822 -1823

Andrew H. Bulger. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

A Newfoundlander.

1823 – 1825

Robert Parker Pelly. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Manitoba Historical Society; Archives of Manitoba, Hudson Bay Company Archives  [enter search keywords ‘Robert Parker Pelly’]

Residence: Fort Douglas  to 1821; afterwards at Fort Garry [I] (the former NWC’s 2nd Fort Gibralter)

Robert Pelly, born in 1790, England, to Reverend John Pelly and Eugenia Roberts, was first cousin to John Henry Pelly, who was HBC London Governor from 1822-1852. The Pelly family was also connected to the British East India Company, which Robert had served as an army captain.

Governor's Horse

Lithograph, “Governor of Red River, driving his family on the River in a horse cariole,” c.1823/1824, showing Governor of Assiniboia, Robert Pelly, driving a sleigh along the Red River to the east of Fort Garry [I] with his wife, Emma, and their four year old son, Robert. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-1052.3. Copyright: expired / périmé.

Wife: Emma, who accompanied her husband to Red River, along with their two year old son Robert. A second son, Henry, was born at Red River while Emma was first lady. [See The Cheltenham Chapel Graveyard, Saint George’s Place, Cheltenham]

1825 – 1833

Donald Mackenzie. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society; Hudson’s Bay Company Biographical Sheet

Residence: Fort Garry [I] (all wood; previously the 2nd NWC Fort Gibraltar; severely damaged during flood of 1826; dilapidated by 1830; replaced in 1835; used for various agricultural purposes until the flood of 1852). Alexander Ross described Fort Garry [I] of 1826 as

“nothing but a few wooden houses huddled together without palisades, or any regard to taste or even comfort. To this cluster of huts were, however, appended two long bastions in the same style as the other buildings.

These buildings, according to the custom of the country, were used as dwellings and warehouses for carrying on the trade of the place. Nor was the Governor’s residence more in its outward appearance than the cottage of a humble farmer, who might be able to spend fifty pounds a year.” [Alexander Ross, The Fur Hunters of the Far West vol. 2 (1855), 261-262.]

Wife: The first lady at Fort Garry [I] was Mackenzie’s second wife, Adelgonde Humbert Droz (of Switzerland), who had been employed as governess to his three children, before his second marriage in 1825.

[The identity and biographical details (including date of death) of Mackenzie’s first wife are uncertain within Canadian historiography. Although “absolute proof is lacking,” historian Sylvia Van Kirk has posited that she was Mary McKay/ MacKay, a Métis woman, who was ‘married off’ by Mackenzie to a junior officer, William Sinclair II, not long before Donald Mackenzie took his post as Governor of Assiniboia. Mary was possibly a daughter of Alexander MacKay/ McKay and Marguerite Waddens (the daughter of Jean-Étienne Waddens; Marguerite Waddens afterward married Dr. John/ Jean-Baptiste McLoughlin). There are Sinclair family traditions, however, that are not in agreement with Van Kirk’s surmises as to the identity of Mary, wife of William Sinclair Jr.

According to historian D.N. Sprague, Donald Mackenzie’ first wife was Matilda Bruce, a Métis woman, born 1810 to Benjamin Bruce and Matilda. (See D.N. Sprague and R.P. Frye, The genealogy of the first Metis nation: the development and dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820-1900, ID #3421.) Additional research has indicated that couple married in 1824 according to the custom of the country, probably at Ile a la Crosse — though problems with the conflated identities of two different Donald Mackenzies remain.]

1833 – 1839

Alexander Christie. Governor of Assiniboia. Chief Factor in charge of the HBC Red River District trade.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society; Hudson’s Bay Company Biographical Sheet

Residence: initially Lower Fort Garry; then moved in about 1837 to a new construction (built 1835-1839), which was a stone-wall-encircled ‘Upper Fort Garry,’ with six major buildings, located on higher ground than Fort Garry [I]. The governor’s house, also known as the “main house,” was constructed 1835-1837. It was 2 1/2 stories tall (about 5 m. tall at the eaves), and 21.24 m. (70 feet) long by 10.67 m. (30 feet) wide. It was located approximately 32.31 m. (106 feet) from the south wall, facing the south gate, near the centre of the fort. The house had a stone foundation, with a cellar, and chimneys rising from each end of the roof.

Wife: Ann Thomas, a Métis woman, probably a daughter of either John Thomas or Thomas Thomas. As the Governor of Assiniboia’s wife, she resided at Lower Fort Garry from 1833 – 1837, at which point the ‘seat of government’ switched to Upper Fort Garry. She was highest ranking governor’s wife at Lower Fort Garry only after the departure of Frances Ramsay Simpson (wife of the Governor-in-Chief) in 1834. Ann was chatelaine at Upper Fort Garry, as first lady, for one year then went to Europe on furlough with her husband.

Of their children, William Joseph Christie (who acted as Commissioner during Treaty 4 negotiations in 1874), married Mary Sinclair (daughter of William Sinclair II and Mary McKay). For photographs of William and Mary Christie as well as biographical details see “‘With Utmost Hospitality’: William and Mary Christie,” Royal Alberta Museum online.

1839 – 1844

Duncan ‘Mis-qui Kiweninne’ Finlayson. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society; Hudson’s Bay Company Biographical Sheet


Wife: Isobel Graham Simpson, sister of Frances Ramsay Simpson (wife of HBC Gov. George Simpson), who arrived at Upper Fort Garry in 1840.

1844 – 1846

Alexander Christie. Governor of Assiniboia. Chief Factor in charge of the HBC Red River District trade.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society; Hudson’s Bay Company Biographical Sheet

Residence: Reputedly (probably a mistake), Christie lived in the ‘Office Building’/ ‘Main House,’ Upper Fort Garry in 1845 [see Fred C. Lucas, ed., An historical souvenir diary of the city of Winnipeg, Canada (Winnipeg: Cartwright and Lucas, 1923), 59]. The problem is that most sources indicate the ‘Office Building’ did not yet exist in 1845. It seems more likely, therefore, that Gov. Christie lived in the original ‘Main House’/ Governor’s House that year.

There are other possibilities, however. One source [George Bryce, “Farewell to the Fort,” Winnipeg Daily Times [sic] (10 September 1883), cited in Frances Bowles, “Manitoba’s Government House,” MHS Transactions, ser. 3, no. 25, Special Supplement (1968-1969 season)], asserts there was an otherwise unknown house situated where, in 1853-1854, a new Governor’s House would one day be built. According to Bryce’s account, this unknown house

“was originally a log structure and was built in 1840 for Mr. Ballantine, who was at the time in charge of Fort Garry. The contractor was Mr. Drever. The house being built several years after [the] main Fort, it was located to the North and outside the original thick stone walls.”

The problem with this account is that there was no Ballantine in charge. If James Ballenden is meant, he was a newly-wed accountant at Upper Fort Garry, who left Red River with his bride in 1840. He did not return until 1848, as HBC Chief Factor of the Red River District (see below). If Ballenden did have a new house built before he married, perhaps Christie stayed in it — though why he would choose to do so is a mystery. (Bryce is not a particularly reliable historian.)

Another source (Andrew Beatty, map, “Relative Sketch of Upper Fort Garry, Red River Settlement, 1846),  indicates that a largish building — known as the ‘Cooking House,’ next to a smaller one, ‘the Bakery’ — existed on the spot where the ‘Office Building’ was later constructed (in 1852). It seems highly unlikely that either of these was known or used as the ‘Office Building’, less likely still that a governor would or could live in either of them.

At any rate, in 1846, the ‘Recorder’s House’ was renovated for Christie (the recorder, Adam Thom, bought his own house — presumably nearby, because he had to preside over court cases). The ‘Main House’/ Governor’s House was slated to be used by incoming military officers.

Wife: Ann Thomas, a Métis woman, probably a daughter of either John Thomas or Thomas Thomas. First lady at Upper Fort Garry to 1846. To 1849 she was Chief Factor’s wife [Red River District] at the fort.

1846 – 1847

John Ffolliott Crofton. Quasi Governor of Assiniboia [Although Simpson intended to appoint Crofton as Governor of Assiniboia (to quell settler complaints about HBC representatives in the position), Alexander Christie continued in the position while Crofton acted as an ex-officio member of the Council of Assiniboia]. Crofton was lieutenant-colonel in charge of a detachment made up of 307 officers and men of the sixth Regiment of Foot (240 troops?); 28 officers and men of the Royal Artillery; one sergeant and 11 men of the Royal Sappers and Miners; and 15 women and 17 children.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

Residence: ‘Main House,’ Upper Fort Garry (renovations began throughout the fort, in order to accommodate the troops; the ‘Main House’ was converted into military officers’ quarters)

Wife: Anne Agnes Addison (daughter of John Addison) married John Crofton in 1845. [It does not seem that she accompanied her husband to Red River. Crofton apparently wrote letters to her that were addressed to Ireland.]

1847 – 1848

Major John T. Griffiths. Governor of Assiniboia.

Bio pages: Manitoba Historical Society

Residence: ‘Main House’/ Officers’ House, Upper Fort Garry

1848 – 1856

William Bletterman Caldwell. Governor of Assiniboia — in one biography described as the “first not previously associated with the HBC.” Formerly of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, he was sent to Red River as Commanding Officer of the Chelsea Penshioners (56 out-pensioners of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea — with 42 women and 57 children in accompaniment). His second-in-command was Captain Christopher Vaughan Foss.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

Residence: initially, the “dilapidated,” but repaired, ‘Main House’/ Governor’s House/ Officers’ House, Upper Fort Garry. He moved out, possibly as early as 1852, if he lived in the new ‘Office Building,’ which was completed that year. The fort meanwhile was expanding, to double in size, beginning 1851; interrupted by the flood of 1852; 3 new, major, buildings were added by 1854. Of these, the ‘Office Building’ was located nearly in the middle (north to south as well as east to west) of the enlarged fort, facing the back of the ‘Main House’/ Governor’s House/ Officers’ House that stood in front of the South Gate (the Main Gate for business). The ‘Office Building’ was about 5.48 m. (18 feet) deep by 10.96 m. (36 feet) long; 2 storeys high; and had one central chimney. A double set of front stairs, one rising from the east, another from the west, met at a landing about 6 steps below a door on the second floor. The landing created a portico over the door on the ground floor. The ground floor had a large hall, used sometimes as a mess, other times as a council chamber, as well as at least one smaller room. The upstairs had five rooms that opened onto an open entrance room inside the door.

Or, Caldwell might have moved as late as c. 1854/ 1855, into the newly built ‘Governor’s House.’ The old ‘Main House’/’Governor’s House’/ Officers’ House was boarded up in 1855 (and taken down completely in 1873). The new Governor’s House was about 14.63 m. (48 feet) long and 8.53 m. (28 feet) deep; 2 1/2 storeys tall; and the front door overlooked a garden and drive leading to the newly built North Gate (the “ceremonial gateway,” which is still standing).

According to family genealogies, William B. Caldwell was born 7 June 1797 aboard ship at Cuxhaven. He was the son of British naval lieutenant William Caldwell (of Inverness, Scotland), and Catherine Hendrina/Hendrika Bletterman, of Kaap de Goede Hoop/ Cape Good Hope, Kaap Kolonie/ Cape Colony, South Africa. William B. Caldwell’s mother, Catherine, was of mixed slave-trade descent (with African, Portuguese – Chinese, Dutch, and Indian [of India] ancestry).

Wife: Elizabeth Townley, whom William B. Caldwell married in 1837. She was the eldest daughter of Robert Townley Esq., of Townley House, Ramsgate, Kent, England (but also of Ireland; and Robert Townley was listed as a member of the gentry, living at 10 Chapel Place in 1839; and as Justice of the Peace for the Cinque Ports at the time of his death in 1849).

Historians make little mention of Elizabeth’s presence at Red River. Eight years would have been a long time to live apart from her husband, and as women and children accompanied Caldwell’s party to the settlement, presumably Elizabeth arrived with them. She had seven children, the first six born between 1837 and 1849, the youngest, Nina, born some time afterward (possibly at Red River). [As a side note, one son, Robert Townley Caldwell, became Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from 1906 to 1914.]

[See “Caldwell, William Bletherman,”; and “Descendants of Angela van Bengale,”]

From 1848, on the departure of Alexander Christie, John Ballenden became HBC Chief Factor of the Red River District, stationed at Upper Fort Garry to 1850. He resided in the ‘Recorder’s House’ — the residence of the HBC Chief Factors for as long as the Governors of Assiniboia were military officers.

Much was made in late 20th-century Canadian social histories out of Governor Caldwell’s handling of a court case which resulted in a guilty verdict levied against HBC mess steward John Davidson and “his English wife,” as well as HBC clerk Augustus Edward Pelly and his wife, Anne Rose Clouston (of the village of Stromness, Orkney) — all of whom slandered Chief Factor Ballenden’s wife, Sarah McLeod (a Métis woman). The historical analysis centred on the question of ‘race.’ Little attention, however, was paid to the fact Sarah was not the only ‘mixed blood’ involved — nor the highest ranking person of ‘mixed’ ancestry at Upper Fort Garry. Nor, for that matter, was she the highest ranking woman at either the fort or the larger settlement, as there were two Governor’s wives in residence (the one being Elizabeth Townley Caldwell, whose place in the HBC hierarchy was beneath that of Anne Maxwell Colville, who lived at Lower Fort Garry for at least part of the time). The allegation that Sarah was “shunned by ‘the nobs’ of the womankind” at Red River is overstated, and Anne McDermot Bannatyne clearly remained a friend. [See entry for McLEOD, Sarah Ada,”BALLENDEN/ BALLENDINE” page, Mothers of the Resistance site; see also Brian Gallagher, “A Re-Examination of Race, Class and Society in Red River,Native Studies Review 4, nos. 1 & 2 (1988), 33.]

1850 – 1851

Eden Colvile/ Colville/ Wedderburn-Colville/ Colville Wedderburn. Governor of Rupert’s Land. With the ‘consent’ of William Bletterman Caldwell (his subordinate), he took over the civil duties of Governor of Assiniboia — presiding over the Council of Assiniboia and the Quarterly Court.

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

Residence: Lower Fort Garry (apparently). He arrived at the settlement in response to settler petitions.

Wife: Anne Maxwell (daughter of Colonel John Maxwell), married Eden Colville in 1845.

1856 – 1858

Francis Godschall Johnson. Governor of Assiniboia. Previously (1854) appointed HBC Recorder (akin to a judge) of Rupert’s Land and he acted as assessor and legal adviser to the HBC and the Governor of Assiniboia (William Bletterman Caldwell); made Assistant Governor of Assiniboia (1855).

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society

Residence: Governor’s House, Upper Fort Garry (initially, 1854, in 2 rooms), to which had been added a one-storey wing on the western end. At this point Government house was described as having 5 rooms upstairs and three rooms downstairs.

(NB: the fort was again occupied by troops — the Royal Canadian Regiment — from 1857-1862. Three older store buildings were converted to barracks.)

1858 – 1869

William Mactavish. Governor of Assiniboia (which political office was rendered ineffectual by the Resistance). From 1860 to his death in 1870, Governor-in-Chief of Rupert’s Land (which commercial office Mactavish retained throughout the Resistance).

Bio pages: Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Manitoba Historical Society; Hudson’s Bay Company Biographical Sheet

Residence: Governor’s House, Upper Fort Garry.

Wife: Mary Sarah ‘Sally’ McDermott, a Métis woman (daughter of Andrew McDermot and Sarah Mary McNab); sister to Annie McDemot who was married to Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne (hon. member, Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia), and who “struck the first blow in the struggle for representative government at Red River.”

Mary Sarah McDermot’s mother, Sarah Mary McNab, was born c. 1802 at Beren’s River to Thomas McNab and Mary Jane, a Saulteux woman. Thomas McNab (born c. 1781), was the son of Dr. John McNab and Jane (an Aboriginal woman). Thomas McNab’s sister, Sarah McNab, married Thomas Bunn, and was the mother of Dr. John Bunn (Councillor of Assiniboia), and grandmother of Thomas Bunn, Councillor in the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia [see “Family Ties,” Hon. Thomas Bunn (St. Clements)].

Mary Sarah McDemott also had family ties, through her sibling’s marriages, to Hon. Dr. Curtis James Bird, St. Paul’s (Middlechurch), Hon. Thomas Sinclair Jr., St. Andrew’s, Hon. Auguste Harrison, Ste.-Anne, and President Louis Riel, Provisional Government of Assiniboia. She died 27 September 1875.

[See Mary Sarah McDermott Mactavish, Women at Red River and the Resistance, 1869-1870, this site]


The Provisional Governments and First Manitoba Governments:

2/3 November to 24 November/ 10 December 1869; 24 November/ 10 December to 24-27 December 1869

John Bruce: President of the Comité National des Métis; President of the Provisional Government

Residence: His ‘centre of operations’ was presumably in Upper Fort Garry — perhaps the old ‘Main House,’ or, potentially the ‘Office Building’/ Dr. Cowan’s House, Upper Fort Garry (though this building is usually described as having been “seized by Riel”). It was known as Dr. William Cowan‘s house, because it served as the residence of the HBC Chief Trader (and wife and children). Prior to becoming “Government House” of the provisional government(s), the upper storey apparently housed some clerks, while the lower storey served as “The Company’s Public Office.” Where the rooms for the family were situated is unknown. [Canada, Sessional Papers vol. 5, 4th session, no. 44 (1871), 28.]

At some point, the Cowans moved: possibly into HBC Gov. William Mactavish‘s residence (where Commissioner from Canada and HBC officer, Donald A. Smith also resided, with the Mactavish family); possibly to Lower Fort Garry.

Whether Bruce actually stayed at Upper Fort Garry 24 hours a day is unknown. It seems equally probable that he continued to live at least part-time at his home across the river in St. Boniface, at or between lots 29-31.

Wife: Angelique Gaudry, with whom he had 5 children: Jean 15, Remé 13, William 9, Joseph 6, Marie Rose 1.

27 December 1869 to 9 February 1870; and 9 February to 23 August 1870:

Louis Riel: President of the Provisional Government; President of the Provisional Government of Rupert’s Land/ Assiniboia

Residence: Apparently Riel did not live in the fort, but rather stayed at the home of his relative, Pierre-‘Henri’ Coutu, in or near the town of Winnipeg. His “Government House” was the ‘Office Building’/ Dr. Cowan’s House, Upper Fort Garry — but perhaps only the top floor (which, apparently, served as a jail). On 6 April 1870, HBC Gov. Mactavish wrote that the Company had “been permitted to retain, throughout the winter,” the ground floor and, “consequently we have been able to preserve our books.” The Provisional Government expressed a willingness to relinquish The Office/ Cowan’s House altogether, if they could move into the ‘Yellow Store,’ which stood “first on the right” of Mactavish’s house. [Canada, Sessional Papers vol. 5, 4th session, no. 44 (1871), 28-29.]

On 23 August Riel and all other members of the first government of Manitoba — the Provisional Government of Assiniboia — vacated Fort Garry.

24 August – 2 September 1870

Donald A. Smith: Provisional, quasi-governor of Manitoba. When Col. Wolseley’s Red River Expeditionary Force from Canada moved into Fort Garry, Smith assumed governance in the name of old Hudson’s Bay Company Council of Assiniboia — which no longer had any legal authority beyond conducting Company business.

Residence: Governor’s House/ Mactavish’s House/ Hudson’s Bay House

2 September:

Adams George Archibald: Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, (who acted as his own premier of the province).

Residence: Governor’s House/ Mactavish’s House/ Hudson’s Bay House


See also:

“Former Lieutenant Governors of Manitoba,” Canada Info;

“Governors of Assiniboia,” MHS,

Brad Loewen and Gregory Monks, “A History of the Structures at Upper Fort Garry, Winnipeg, 1835-87,” Environment Canada, Canadian Parks Service, Report Series 330 (1986)]


Published: 11 November 2012


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